Senior former Nazis were allowed to run German health resorts where children were abused for decades after the Second World War, according to a new documentary.
A Nazi doctor accused of sending at least seven children to die under a eugenics programme and a former SS officer who took part in the murder of 220 Lithuanian Jews are among those featured in the programme.
Astonishingly, both were allowed to hold senior positions at children’s health spas in postwar West Germany.
The film for ARD television’s Report Mainz, one of Germany’s most respected documentary series, explores the murky world of children’s health resorts.
Until the eighties it was common for West German children to be sent to health spas for issues as trivial as bedwetting or being overweight.
The documentary series has previously uncovered details of how children were abused at the spas and routinely beaten, sedated, and injected with psychotropic drugs.
In a new report broadcast on Monday night, it investigates how senior former Nazis were in positions of authority at spas where children were abused until as recently as the seventies.
Hugo Kraas was a senior SS general and commander of the “Hitler Youth” Panzer Division. He knew Hitler and Goebbels personally.
According to new research for the documentary he remained a staunch Nazi until his death, and attended the funeral of a fellow SS officer and convicted war criminal in 1966 wearing medals he was awarded under the Third Reich.
Yet he was appointed director of a spa where children suffered abuse in the North Sea resort of St Peter-Ording in 1969.
Werner Scheu, another former SS officer, was allowed to run a spa on the nearby island of Borkum in the Fifties.
He was later convicted of war crimes over the shooting of 220 Lithuanian Jews and sentenced to life in prison.
A woman who was sent to Scheu's spa as a child told the documentary how she was forced to stand barefoot on the cold floor for hours at night as a punishment. On another occasion she was locked in the sauna.
Albert Viethen, a former SS doctor, served as medical director of a children’s spa in the Bavarian Alps in the fifties.
In 1963 he was prosecuted on charges of transferring children to a Nazi eugenics programme during the Second World War. He escaped conviction by claiming ignorance of the children’s fate.
“You actually had to watch all the time that you weren't pushed or punched, that you weren't knocked over,” a man who was sent to the spa where Viethen was medical director as a child told the documentary. “That meant that I was pretty much a bundle of nerves. The time I spent there was the worst time of my life.”
The German authorities have pledged to investigate abuse at the health resorts.
“We are looking into some dark places,” Manfred Lucha, a spokesman for regional health ministers, said.